20 Eylül 2015 Pazar

French Revolution's projection on the Ottomans and Tayfun Serttaş / Huo is Asking @ ARTUNLIMITED

French Revolution's projection on the Ottomans 
and Tayfun Serttaş

Huo is Asking

Huo is Asking, is an active personal blog, made out of interviews of five questions, five answers. Artist Huo Rf, by asking these questions to other artists, institutions or art professionals, aims to be aware of the effect and perception of different geographies and art fields. After the appearance of the Huo is Asking interview series in Art Unlimited, the artist expands his field, and asks his art related questions to not only art professionals but also people from different work fields and names he wants to put a spotlight on.

Huo Rf: In our days, art is not evaluated on a career scheme regarding a technical or educational aspect. Once a work is completed, defined as striking, and touching for the audience, only then we look at its history. I am asking
this question, ruling out the fact that
it has previously been asked multiple times: Your academic background is
in anthropology, you produce utilizing various mediums, you do research and archive work. You started producing stories, aspects, situations and persons that you’ve already been looking inside intensely. How did this process evolve? How were your initial works, and the following interactions you experienced shaped?

Tayfun Serttaş: Let me first correct one thing; my academic background is in art. I have an undergraduate degree in anthropology. But I completed my graduate degree in interdisciplinary arts that I still pursue. My graduate thesis includes visual archives. I have often been associated with anthropology.

The reason for this is because my works were often and fairly been
read with regards to sociology, yet even before anthropology, I have
been heavily equipped with art. I haven’t discovered art subsequently; instead art was always present in my life. Then I wanted to evolve on a different platform by incorporating anthropology, and to apply scientific methodology. But it wasn’t long before I continued from where I left off therefore my story is not so hilly. Even in primary school, I was programmed to be an artist. It’s just that everyone was hoping I would become an artist, and I surprised everyone by focusing on archives. Obviously, in order to explain this to the art world, I often gave reference to sociology and philosophy. I think that’s how the concept of “anthropologist/artist” was perceived (laughs).

H.R.: Based on my experience, during high school and university, I took technically adequate/inadequate workshop trainings. As a result of a very common problem in Turkey, there were workshops in the curriculum
that I could not take due to academic inability. Long story short, in a way, I was exposed –even though not fully- to the material. We observe that in your works, the fiction, the textual part
of the status, is rather strong. How 
do you blend the reflection of these statuses on you with the technical aspect? How much do you get involved in the technical production stage and how much responsibility do you take from the technical point of view?

T.S.: Academic education is overrated if you’re not pursuing a really scientific training. Academic education can only establish a profound background if it is scientific, and that is very dependent on the mentality, and the school the person is affiliated with. For instance, it creates a special feeling of affiliation. In all the other academic educations, you are the actor, and you get how ever much you want to receive, and advance thereon... Especially in fields like art and philosophy, the burden is on the student rather than the teacher. I did everything I could to fulfill myself academically but in the end I was the decision maker. No one decided for me.

If we get to plastic arts from this point on, there, you are not as free
as you think you are. Because every context and material you work on have certain necessities. If you aim
to visualize an archive consisted of 200 thousand layers of film, in the
end of the day you cannot make a tower out of these. With the first
rain that comes, your tower will be demolished. You are entitled to act
in accordance with the memory and independent necessities of the material you work with. For instance, if you attempt to fictionalize a fantasy museum like “Le Musee d’Histoire Naturelle de Constantinople” from scratch, then other responsibilities
are activated. There are over 40
works exhibited at the museum; it
is an utterly different, completely personal plastic experience with a five-year background. “Cemetery of Architects” is a whole different plastic experience; limestone, one of Istanbul’s oldest architectural elements since
the Byzantines, was brought from the last quarry in the Marmara region, and the limestone-marble relationship in the architecture of the period was symbolically fictionalized afresh. It is of course possible to produce the same work from Plexiglas, but the medium is the relationship the artist forms with culture. I prefer completely different mediums at each of my exhibitions. These preferences do not disregard
the culture, rather, are involved in the process distilled from the memory of culture production.

H.R.: Reading about you, I saw 
that you are very interested in history, especially recent history. In parallel with the political agenda, the art scene in Turkey is very dynamic. You too are involved in some discussions. Artists and curators reflect their opinions on the agenda. The readers are sometimes convinced, sometimes not. Looking at art history, we observe that criticism in the mid-20th century is very rough, and very influential at the same time in determining the interest shown to some exhibitions and the sale rates of some works. How do you think this happens? Could you elaborate on this as an artist and a writer?

T.S.: In the 90’s, there was a battlefield atmosphere to make space for artists of the following generation. If we owe anything to history, this is it: the result of the battle in those years. The generation in the early 2000’s found itself in a different battlefield, making space for the other generation. We’re in 2015, and the battle will keep on going. I just have a general intuition that the artist generation following mine has a high opinion of “avoiding re so as not to burn hands”. They
act with the courtesy of a company secretary instead of an artist. When
the fight with the government stops, so does art. I feel like they are preparing for their own ends.

Today, the world and conditions
we live in are not as malleable as the artists’ general stance. While the blacks were given all the rights during the last century, today they’re hunted down in the streets like birds. The new world has no west or east; we’re shaking with news of “betrayal of history” from all over the world. Today, culture producers undertake a very serious mission, that, if they can realize.

The “criticism-sale ratio” duo that you mentioned in your question is really none of my business, as I don’t create with that motivation in mind. Yet at the end of the day you are
face to face with your work; there’s good work, there’s bad work, there’s work that you try to t, and those
that t you very well. Criticism can only overtake to a degree, because in the end, the mechanism that we call “human brain” works there too. To me the greatest determinant is history. If you can call a criticism that you wouldn’t bear hearing one day, and the next you think it is actually valuable, this means history will eventually lead everyone to confront themselves.

H.R.: The story of Dr. Abdullah Bey is remarkable, and reading from the interviews you gave, very important. The kind that you wouldn’t hear about, if you weren’t to uncover until someone else would. At the same time, we encounter it in various visual languages via various mediums in your works. How did you meet Dr. Abdullah Bey and how did you decide he was a good starting point? Do you believe your choice or encounter is a coincidence?

T.S.: I can’t call it a coincidence
since the Age of Enlightenment, and the currents developed thereafter, specifically the French Revolution –that I read together with the 1871 Paris Commune- and its projection
on the Ottomans, are some of my favorite topics of study. But the person that it all comes down to is a pure coincidence. I met Dr. Abdullah Bey when I read his name on a small brass plaque, in front of a small display where some of the 400 fossils that he had sent from Anatolia to Paris at the time were exhibited at the mineralogy room that I had entered by coincidence at the Paris Natural History Museum. It was written that he had died in Istanbul... I was then following the stories of the Young Turks. When they first went to Paris, the Young Turks were organizing special meetings, gathering at squares, and observing sculptures. I mean any sculptures in the streets of Paris, next to fountains for instance, not necessarily those of artistic value. Their purpose was to observe these. Because at the time, sculptures were banned in the public sphere, and this appeared to them very strange.

I was so involved with the Young Turks that at first I thought Dr. Abdullah Bey was a Young Turk. Because I didn’t believe any other entrepreneur but Young Turks could gather fossils from Anatolia and send it to Paris in those years. Then the reality about him started to unfold, and I couldn’t digest his story as the truth unveiled. The intellectual dynamics that someone as important as Osman Hamdi had created with his refugee identity, had to correspond to something. The subject then became bigger than Dr. Abdullah Bey’s personal being, and expanded to the museum. The result was more impressive then I had imagined; I wasn’t sure that an exhibition
about these early encyclopedists and naturalists would arouse such interest. I thought this was an issue that only I cared about, yet it wasn’t. Students rushed to the exhibition, many academies are trying to make
an appointment to give lectures at the exhibition space, and I see that the subject was of matter to most of them.

H.R.: Water found on Mars, the technological advancement process, USA, China, Russia, ISIS... What future awaits us? And could you share your future works, research, and events?

T.S.: This is not a very suitable time to make manifestations about the future; it is a transition period, and we shall start by forgetting everything we know of, we believe in, and think of. If anyone can say “tomorrow such will happen %100”, believe me he/she himself/herself does not believe in
it and tries to fool you. Whatever we thought we knew and believed would happen; we saw the fall of during these past five years. The Great Middle East Project collapsed, and Arab Nightmare created out of the Arab Spring, European Union is having its most depressing times ever, and those actors we had high hopes of like China did not surprise us intellectually...

Where to start fictionalizing such a world? We should start by not losing hope. Because the history of the same men involved days of enlightenment, and we see that those periods were started following heavy pressure times. People always have the action-reaction re ex, a common re ex of all humans, not specific to a culture or society. Let’s believe in action-reaction, it will definitely have its effects. My own personal life, works, personal history, preferences, adoptions will be no different than this. There is no world independent of us, wherever it goes we will follow. At the point when we think we’re the strongest opposition, we actually give our voice to mainstream.

Kaynak: French Revolution's projection on the Ottomans and Tayfun Serttaş
Huo is Asking ARTUNLIMITED Sayı: 33 Eylül / 20015 

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